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SYSTEMS BIOLOGY · Italian university receives first of several investments

By Scarlet Pruitt

March 8, 2005 | Microsoft has launched an initiative to invest in scientific research centers in Europe, heeding a call by the European Commission for increased technology research. The EuroScience initiative was unveiled by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at the company's Government Leaders Forum in Prague, in January.

The first research center is at the University of Trento, Italy, and will focus on using computational tools for biological research. Gates selected Trento's Computational and Systems Biology center because the university is on the frontier of biological sciences and will hopefully produce useful medicines. "There is a great level of innovation in European universities, and software has become a great vehicle for research," he said.

EuroScience operates as a public-private sector partnership, and, in the case of Trento, the Italian government is contributing 60 percent of funds, and Microsoft the remainder.

GLOBAL HEALTH: Gates hopes EuroScience centers will provide insight to his other efforts to promote health.
Microsoft will provide software, and its computer researchers in Cambridge, England, and the United States will work with the lab. It will also be offering postdoctoral fellowships, scholarships, awards, and workshops through the program.

The initiative will focus on computational science, intelligent environments, and new computing paradigms that draw from nature, chemistry, and biology. The software giant will be able to generate intellectual property (IP) from advances in computing, while the research institutes will gain scientific IP. "We are at a great point where computing and software can advance science," Gates said.

Additional centers will be announced in the coming months, with discussions under way with institutes in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Gates left the door open for expansion of the program into the United States and Asia. "I'm sure we will be in other regions," he said.

Although EuroScience is a Microsoft initiative, Gates expressed hope that the research could one day be fed into his other activities to solve global health problems. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars toward vaccinating children in developing nations.


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